GRANTS PASS, Ore. — A cluster of Salmonella cases in Josephine County have been linked to a much larger outbreak in Oregon and around the country caused by red onions, according to Josephine County Public Health.
In mid-July, public health officials said that multiple cases of Salmonella had been traced to food consumed at Si Casa Flores in Grants Pass. Specimens collected from the restaurant later tested negative, indicating that any contaminated ingredients were no longer present.
By the end of July, Oregon and national public health agencies had found the culprit — red onions shipped from Thomson International, Inc., in Bakersfield, California.
Josephine County Public Health confirmed on Monday that the local cases were part of the larger outbreak, which sickened more than 400 people in 40 states and in Canada. There were 76 reported cases in Oregon, including eighteen hospitalizations.
In Josephine County, five people fell ill and two were hospitalized with this strain of Salmonella bacteria. While these five cases were linked to Si Casa Flores, Josephine County Public Health officials said that they do not believe diners at the restaurant are at risk of further exposure.
“We have been working closely with the managers and staff at Si Casa Flores to ensure the continued safety of its customers,” said Mike Weber, Josephine County Public Health director. “This restaurant has done everything right in this unfortunate situation, and customers should feel safe dining there. I recently enjoyed a meal there myself.”
About 400 to 500 cases of salmonellosis are reported in Oregon every year. For most people, the illness lasts up to a week and leads to recovery, though some get more severe infections.
"People who believe they’ve gotten diarrhea from consuming red onions might want to contact a health care provider," said Emilio DeBess, D.V.M., an epidemiologist at the Oregon Public Health Division Acute and Communicable Disease Prevention Section. "However, most people with salmonellosis will recover without antibiotics."
People who have eaten red onions but not gotten sick do not need to seek or notify a health care provider, Josephine County said.
"If you have any of these potentially contaminated onions, discard them and wash your hands afterwards," said DeBess.